Survivalism & Self Sufficiency Topics > Do It Yourself - Projects, Ideas and How To

A Rough Carpentry Toolkit

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Red Dog:
     I've been listening to the podcast and lurking on the forums for a while now.  I never felt like I had anything of particular value to add
to any of the threads that I read.  But I was feeling like a leach, taking all of the info here without contributing anything.  While driving
today listening to Jack's most recent podcast it occurred to me, I haven't seen a post on basic tool kits for various trades.
     I've been in the construction trades for over 20 yrs, most of my experience is in the rough carpentry and structural side of the business so I'll
start with what I know.  To follow is my recommended minimal toolkit and then my slightly more advanced toolkit for rough carpentry.  I'm going to restrict
the list to tools that can be run with good old fashioned muscle/brain power.  My goal with this list is to suggest a list of tools that would allow an individual
to perform basic carpentry repairs, or to build simple improvements in a situation where power might not be available.  This isn't a list for just a basic
home owner toolkit but more a list for some one looking to actually build or repair a simple structure.

The Necessities:

 Hammer- One of the most basic of tools, I would recommend a framing hammer.  This hammer has straight "rip" claws and is larger than most home owners
                 seem to buy.  These hammers tend to be very sturdy fairly heavy and are made to drive and pull large nails easily.

 Hand Saw- These tools are another basic and absolute necessity.  Most of the sawing you do in framing is cutting the wood to length and as such what
                 you're looking for is a crosscut saw.  These saws are designed to cut across the grain of a piece of wood.(Rip saws cut with the grain)  Good saws
                 can be crazy expensive but a simple Stanley saw will do just fine for starters.

Level- You need a level at least 4 feet long to even begin to be able to use it to frame with.  Most guys who make their living at this stuff spend a lot of money
                on their levels and usually have several some much longer than 4'.  But a 4' aluminum level will serve the purpose.  Stay away from the wood levels
                for our purposes, they're more expensive and more susceptible to poor storage or poor conditions.

Chalk Line- Some guys call these a chalk box, they are used to mark long straight lines on your project.  A simple plastic chalk box will do the job, you need to get
                powdered chalk to fill the box and coat the string before you can use it.

Square- I'm going to offer two options here, one is a simple framing square.  This tool is in reality anything but simple and will allow a skilled user to do some amazing
                things.  The other option is a speed square these look like a metal triangle with a bunch of numbers on them, they're almost as simple and even more
                amazing I'm going to recommend the speed square at this point with the caveat that you buy one with the book that explains their usage.  A speed square
                takes some practice and knowledge to master but can be used as a basic square until you learn the ins and outs.  The real secret to building is in the math
                and measurements.  These two tools and the other measuring tools are the real stock in trade of any framer or builder.

Tape Measure- Pretty self explanatory but I would suggest one that winds up with a crank instead of a spring.  They tend to be longer and there's less to go wrong
                so they tend to be more durable.  Although considering how cheap and useful they are I might buy one with a crank and several more of the spring loaded

Marking tools- You need something to write on the wood with.  I like pencils, nothing fancy just a good old #2.  The other tool that goes with this is a utility knife
                you can use it to sharpen the pencil or use the blade to mark a line in the wood.

The Make Life Easier Tools:(Still no electricity allowed)

Brace and Bits- A brace is one of those old timey drills that looks a little like a question mark.  You can pick these up fairly cheap on the used market.  They usually
                require bits with a square shank so you can't use normal drill bits in them if they do.  I have seen modern versions that don't take the square shanks but I've
                never tried one.  I would recommend finding screwdriver bits for these also as it's a lot faster than traditional screwdrivers.

Chisels- A small set of bench chisels is nice for removing that last little bit of wood.  For rough carpentry you don't need fancy Japanese ones just plain old Stanley's will
               work fine and not cost more than my first car.

Sledge- A bigger hammer to persuade difficult pieces into or out of place.

Pry bar- A wrecking bar, jimmy bar, or crow bar.  at least one large and one small these are invaluable on the demolition or clean up side of things.

Saw Horses- Technically maybe not a tool but a real backsaver.

Rip Saw- These tend to be harder to find and more expensive because no one uses them anymore.  They are a handsaw designed to cut with the grain of the wood.
               They look like a typical saw but the teeth are shaped and set a little differently.  This one definitely falls in the not necessary category but if you find
               one cheap in a 2ND hand store I'd grab it and pay someone to sharpen it.

Clamps- Working with hand saws makes a few of these a godsend, freeing your second hand up to help guide the tool on a precise cut.

Plumb Bob- This simple tool has been around at least since they built the pyramids. It is a weight on a string and is used to determine true vertical or "plumb".

The Materials and Supplies (Stuff to use those tools on)

Nails- Get a bunch they're fairly cheap right now.  Back in the colonial days nails were so valuable people used to burn down buildings they were no longer
                going to use just to be able to recover the nails from the ashes.  I would recommend picking up 16 penny (abbreviated 16D) framing nails, some 10d and
                some 8D.  Galvanized (to resist corrosion) might be a good idea also.  I've only mentioned nails used in framing wood to wood here but there are
                several other types out there and I'd personally pick up a supply of cut nails and finish nails also.

Screws- These are not typically used in framing but they do get used a lot in repair work so I'll mention them here.  Screws are great and have become the fastener
               of choice with the advent of the cordless drill.  When you buy screws for general use stay away from actual drywall screws, the metal is very brittle and
               not very strong or weather resistant.  I'd look for deck screws instead.

Sheet Goods- That's wood like plywood or OSB.  I'd recommend keeping some around if you've got the space.  7/16" (that's how thick it is) OSB is typically used on
                walls  (and roofs in more southerly climes), 3/4" is usually used on floors.  Most sheets are 4'x8' and these products are great for covering windows in those
                Storm  prone areas.

Lumber- This is the stuff that forms the skeleton of most homes. The sizes are nominal width and depth in inches followed by length.  For example a 2x4x8 (two by
               four by eight) is nominally 2 inches by 4 inches and eight feet long.  Again if you've got the space I'd keep some around with some of the more commonly
               used sizes being 2x4, 2x6, 2x8, and 2x10.  As far as length goes store the longest length you have the room for.  It's easy to cut a shorter piece if you need
               it but as the saying goes " I've cut it twice and it's still too short."

House Wrap-  This one may seem a little unusual but Tyvek brand housewrap is wonderful stuff for quickly repairing a hole in you're house so I'm going to mention it
                here.  It's not cheap but it's like having a 10' by 100' tarp that's light and nearly indestructible.  I'd keep a roll around just for it's compactness and general
                utility.  Make quick groundcloths, temporary shelters, tarps, etc.  this stuff rates up there with duct tape and WD-40.

Caulk and a Caulk Gun- Again not a true carpentry tool but with the repair possibilities in mind this is another one of those must have items.  Caulk is perishable and
                 should be stored where it won't freeze.  Since you've got the gun already I'd get a couple of tubes of construction adhesive also.  Some of the new stuff
                 is strong enough to make near permanent repairs.

      I'm sure I've probably missed something and hope you guys will chime in with more ideas.  I would love to see some one with more knowledge than I have make a
similar post for suggestions on a basic electrical kit, plumbing kit, mechanical kit, etc.  I hope this gets people to thinking about not just having shelter but maintaining
it.  In a survival scenario your home may well be the most important resource you have protecting not only your family but most of your other preparations.
It makes good sense to protect and preserve it just as you would any other asset.

      Sorry for the somewhat rambling nature of this post the scope kept growing as I wrote it.  I'd love to see a series of posts covering more aspects of maintaining the
preparations we make, not just our home but our vehicles weapons and other gear.  We put a lot of time effort and money into this lifestyle and good maintenance
is almost always cheaper than replacing something.

Nice Job!

Welcome Red Dog, great job. Thanks for the info.


Cool list. I know it's a no electricity list, but I can't survive without my chainsaw. Ever hear of Dick Proenneke? He did some amazing things.

Don't forget the cordless tools.

Needing to board up a window in the middle of storm with hand tools because the power is out probably wouldn't be all that much fun. That, and I don't think I would want to use a corded drill in the rain anyhow.

That, and they are handy just everyday.

Otherwise, a great list.


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